At first glance Mike Spaid would seem to be an unremarkable candidate to catch up with. Sure, he averaged more than 18 points a game for Cheney as a junior and senior, but at 6-foot-11 that’s not so remarkable.
And there wasn’t anything remarkable about his one season at Washington State. He played in just 13 games, averaging 3.2 points and 2.5 rebounds for a George Raveling team that went 16-14.
But when his e-mail contact is Mikey9toes, well, how can you resist?
There isn’t much about Mike Spaid that isn’t somewhat remarkable.
Though Spaid didn’t parlay his size into college stardom, he did combine it with dual citizenship into an 18-year basketball career in England that included two Olympics and a Commonwealth Games championship.
And that is where 9toes comes in.
All those years of basketball led to numerous injuries.
“When I was playing my little toe got broken,” Spaid, now 49 and retired from basketball 10 years, said. “It was overlapping, wouldn’t go down, and was wearing the skin off, wearing out my shoes. The doctor said there were two things he could do, operate on it twice or get rid of it.
“I thought that I didn’t use it, it was just a dead toe. … That was five or six years ago.”
It was just another operation, one of 14 overall, which begs the question: Why?
“It’s an addiction, isn’t it?” he said. “Doctors told me after a couple of operations I should play another sport or take it easy, but once it’s in the system it’s hard to get out. It’s a great way to make a living and I got to see the world.”
During his playing days, Spaid made the equivalent of $80,000-$100,000 a year plus a house, car and no taxes – quite an accomplishment considering his college career.
He had a scholarship to Seattle Pacific after graduating from Cheney in 1978 but stayed only one year because he wanted to play at a larger school. Raveling had showed interest but first Spaid had to spend a year at Grays Harbor Community College.
Spaid kept the explanation of his one year at WSU short: “Unforeseen circumstances. I was married at the time and things weren’t going too well.”
Raveling said he could stay for his final year but he also had the option of playing in England since his mom was English, having married his father, who was in the Air Force and stationed there.
He chose England. He finished his business degree and played 98 games for the national team, although his wife and daughter didn’t stay. The professional league was on the level of a good university team, he said.
Spaid lives in Portsmith, 60 miles south of London on the coast, with his second wife and 17-year-old daughter. He has worked in a therapeutic unit at a home for abused children for about 10 years.
“I love it,” he said. “The money’s not great but the rewards overcome that, just giving these kids another chance.”
He said he has an agreement with his wife that he can return home whenever necessary, which is a couple of times a year. He was here during Hoopfest, which piqued his interest, and tried to contact former WSU teammate Craig Ehlo.
“I wanted to play but my body was telling me no,” he said. “I’m going to have another knee surgery when I get home. My older brother Bob is trying to get a family team; four of us played basketball.”
The downside of England is the cost of England, but that’s about it.
“We’re right on the coast, everything is beautiful,” he said. “I just love it there. My wife’s family is there. When I come home to Spokane, no disrespect, but it’s like night and day. In England everything is green.”
Spaid’s outlet now is golf.
“I’m all show, no go,” he admitted. “It’s nice to play another sport. I’ve played sports all my life, I’m not stopping.”
Unless, maybe, he became Mikey9fingers.
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